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Irish Republican Army

May 15, 2019 in History

By History.com Editors

Established in 1919 to halt British rule in Northern Ireland using armed forces, the Irish Republican Army, or IRA, fought for independence and a reunified republic—often in tandem with, but independent of, the Irish nationalist party, Sinn Fein.

In 1969, demanding British withdrawal from Northern Ireland but differing on tactics, the IRA split into two factions: officials and provisionals. Officials sought independence through peace, while the provisionals used violence to further its efforts, which resulted in an estimated 1,800 deaths, including more than 600 civilians. As the Provisional IRA and other paramilitary groups waged an increasingly violent campaign and the British Army retaliated, the period known as the “Troubles” roiled the region and beyond for nearly 30 years.

Below is a timeline of notable events.

Bloody Sunday Leads to New IRA Recruits

Dec. 28, 1969: Aiming to protect the Catholic minority from discrimination from loyalist militants and the Protestant-Majority police force, the Provisional Army Council, officially splinters off from the IRA. The Provisional IRA soon becomes known as simply the IRA, while the other faction, known as the Original IRA, quickly diminishes in stature.

Jan. 30, 1972: Known as Bloody Sunday, 13 unarmed Catholic civil rights demonstrators are killed, with 15 wounded, by British paratroopers during a civil rights march in Derry in Northern Ireland. The British Army falsely called the victims gunmen and bombers—a report finalized in 2010 found none of the dead were threats. The shooting lead hundreds to join the IRA.

July 7, 1972: Unsuccessful secret peace talks take place between the IRA and British government in Chelsea’s Cheyne Walk, the first meeting of the two groups since 1921.

July 21, 1972: Twenty-plus IRA bombs explode in Belfast, leaving nine dead and 130 injured on what will come to be called Bloody Friday. The British retaliate 10 days later, with Operation Motorman, bringing in tanks to enter “no-go” areas controlled by the IRA in Derry and West Belfast.

Nov. 21, 1972: Targeting two pubs in Birmingham, England known to be popular among off-duty law enforcement, the IRA sets off bombs that kill 21 and injure 182. This marks the deadliest year of the long-running conflict, with nearly 500 casualties, more than half of them civilians.

Dec. 22, 1974: The IRA announces a Christmas-season ceasefire until Jan. 2, 1975 following secret talks with the British, The ceasefire is then extended on February 8, but the truce ends just …read more


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